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Rosemaryís Baby (Roman Polanski) 1968

    Surely one of the best horror films ever made, Roman Polanskiís Rosemaryís Baby is so internally frenzied that it feels like an extended fever dream. In some ways itís some of the most sadistic black comedy imaginable, and the way that the film gradually turns its heroineís fears about her pregnancy and relationship into reality has an almost poetic justice. Rosemary creates some bad karma, and itís only natural that the unfounded suspicions that she has come back to haunt her when her wildest fantasies turn out to be true. Anchored by a brilliant and naturalistic performance by Mia Farrow as Rosemary, the film is one of the directorís best. Even if its goals are relatively modest when compared to the directorís towering Chinatown, itís almost as effective a genre piece. Its setting of unspeakable evils in the sterile home environment is a theme also visible in his quite similar Repulsion, but in typical American fashion the horrors here are much more overt than in that European film.    

Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of the film is that since it so determinedly fixes itself to Rosemaryís point of view, it allows her character to be genuinely perceptive and intelligent. Itís not far into the film that she begins to be distrustful of her neighbors, and her actions have a sense of logic behind them thatís far greater than you usually find in a horror movie. A lot of this might be because Farrow really seems to think before she speaks. Her childish face belies the cunning mind behind it, and the performance uses that time and again to its advantage, and when she wants to appear completely vulnerable, she has no problem pulling that off either. Still, thereís no doubt that Polanski deserves the bulk of the credit here. His direction seems to expand the confines of the film, which is mostly set in one apartment, to the point that Rosemaryís perception of things suggests an entire corrupt world. Filled with several inventive visual metaphors that often echo the protagonistís state of mind and a surprisingly astute use of color, this is top-notch stuff. Though the film doesnít often use shock techniques, the overall mood is exceptionally creepy. Since we genuinely like Rosemary, the filmís slow boil toward its inevitable denouement is almost unbearable. Ultimately, Rosemaryís Baby is a finely modulated a horror film youíre likely to come across.

**** Masterpiece

01/20/02

Jeremy Heilman